Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Selected Poems of Langston Hughes

I have read so little poetry that I had to add "poetry" as a new shelf on Goodreads when I reviewed this book there. But Langston Hughes was a perfect solid introduction to poetry that I wasn't required to read by a teacher or professor. And seeing as I got married in a room called the Langston Hughes Room, I figured I should read a bit more of what he had to say. Fortunately, he had a lot of great things to tell the world.

He tackles the everyday with humor, insouciance, wit, and a twinkle in his eye:

Looks like what drives me crazy
Don't have no effect on you-
But I'm gonna keep on at it
Till it drives you crazy, too.

And he still manages to deal with bigger, important national issues with intelligence, sincerity, and integrity. This poem was very well written in a time (early 20th century) that must have been frustrating, depressing, and awful for people of good conscience:

Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To Stand
On my own two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow's head.

Is a strong seed
In a great need.
I live here too.
I want freedom
Just as you.

I wasn't sure how I'd deal with poetry. A lot of it has seemed to me to be silly and self-absorbing and self-absorbed. But oftentimes you (or at least Langston, who does it much better than you) can communicate more clearly in poetry than prose. It is fun to feel the cadence of the song of poetry in your head, rather than proses sometimes plodding sentences. I doubt I'll turn into a poetry nut, but I'm opening my eyes to the good stuff. Do you read poetry that you enjoy?

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